Many Democrats believe the signature mistake of Al Gore's campaign was his neglect of the incumbent's record of fiscal and economic stability. And yet, here was the central theme to George W. Bush's convention acceptance speech:
Prosperity can be a tool in our hands used to build and better our country. Or it can be a drug in our system dulling our sense of urgency, of empathy, of duty.
Our opportunities are too great, our lives too short, to waste this moment. So tonight we vow to our nation: We will seize this moment of American promise.
We will use these good times for great goals. We will confront the hard issues threats to our national security, threats to our health and retirement security before the challenges of our time become crises for our children.
Can you imagine that today? Can you picture Ron Johnson saying, "Sure, unemployment's at 4 percent, but for what greater purpose does it serve?"
This, in addition to the moralizing on social issues and oral sex, was the context of Gore's strategy to avoid Clinton's legacy.
Now, nostalgia for Clinton could never be stronger. Although Bubba left the White House with a high approval rating, his favorability now is even stronger, having risen 20 points since he left office. It's not surprising, then, that some Democrats would prefer to be seen with Clinton than the current president.
What is puzzling is that so many Democrats are allowing the Republicans to get away with their claims that the GOP is the party to restore fiscal discipline in Washington. Was it not the Clinton tax hikes and an era of growth which allowed the budget to reach a surplus for the first time since the 60's.
Feingold did well at his last debate of getting that point across. But he and other Democrats should be running ads on the subject, emphasizing the need to raise taxes on the richest top percentile of American income earners. Support for tax hikes on the rich has eroded in recent months, but it will come back if the messaging is correct. Americans like tax cuts, but they are not devout trickle-downers. As long as you convince middle-class voters that "rich" does not mean them, they'll support the tax hikes.
The last Republican president to leave office with a balanced budget was Ike Eisenhower.
There's one ad right there.